Saturday, September 30, 2006

Table tennis - Corporate lessons from it...

A game which looks simple and straight-forward to an onlooker... a break time stress reliever to an amateuer... a highly technical and tactful sport for the ping-pong professional..
The above one liner doesn't complete the funda of my table tennis. The game of Table tennis on the corridors of modern day corporate office spaces is a world in itself. I started playing this game only after joining Microsoft and as I got into playing this game more and more I started learning career lessons from it. Sounding weird ?? Maybe, but this is my perspective of the game and the play on and off the field... am trying to put it down in words what it taught me abstract !

As soon as I joined my company there was an intra-team TT tournament happening and it was the motivation for me to start learning this game as early as possible. There were mentors for me to teach the basics of the game, and I got a chance to play a game in the tournament. It so happenned that I won the doubles match played among the beginners in the team ! :) From then on, I almost regularly played this game with friends, team mates and colleagues. My learning curve was slow and steady and today I may not be even one of the great players (in my office), but atleast I can play a decent game which can guarentee me fun and satisfaction.

1. Fear not to lose...
Naturally you will get to meet people with different levels of expertise in the table. I have seen many who hesitate to put their game on litmus test with experienced players. I never fear to take on big players. Fear of losing is the starting point of the dip in your learning curve. Yeah, it will be not be fun when you are thrashed left right and center by your opponent, but it efinitely
enhances your game by leaps and bounds provided you are receptive to the hard lessons it teaches you. If you are of the kind of getting demoralized by gettting smashed, it least helps. My game improved a lot by playing against tough players and believe me I have infact took my game to a level better than those who looked tough for me before.
'Fear not to lose' mantra works the same way in taking up hard assignments in your work. Fear of failure should be the last thing in your mind when taking up challenging assignments. You may lose a couple times, but unknowlingly you would have acquired skills enough to raise your bar high on accomplishments. From then on even your small accomplishments will look
monumental to the world around you !

2. The important stage - do not falter in the last mile.
The game which we normally play in office is a 21 point game with change in service after every 5 serves. In a typical game both the players will be attacking during the first 10 points and will try to be defensive only when they have lost a big lead to the opponent. I have seen a few players who lose concentration when they are defending a huge lead. They falter more when the score reads something like 18-11 and they are leading. From such a losing stage I have won a many times and there has been very less incidents of me losing from a 18-11 lead. The funda is simple, dont enjoy success until its fully achieved.
'Missing out in the last mile'- is a common mistake in corporate world. A big assignment on hand, you thought over it a lot, you designed the solution for it, you burnt midnight oil for solving it, and you got the problem to a stage where it is nicely placed to for the solution. This is not where to relish the sucess and that too at the cost of losing track of the next step. Keep your focus hard on that last mile where the challenge has died, the motivation is low - yet the dragon heads of the problem are just in invisible state. Take it to the logical conclusion and close the loop and then the chapter. Thumbs up !

3. Know when to play second fiddle.
Playing a singles game and a doubles game of TT is a different strategy altogether. More than your game you need to understand your partners game for the synergy to work for your team. And in TT, your game is not the same everyday. One day all your shots will be on the right place and the very next day your may not get your placements right. So if your partner is not getting his shots, you assume the attacking role and let him play second fiddle till he gets back his rhythm. Same the case when your partner is going guns over the shots, defend or play for his shots. The other side of this co-ordination story is - Stay cool and play your natural game even when your partner loses all your points with his bad game.
Being an effective team player is as important as being a good individual contributor. Marching towards a common vision as a team requires taking leadership, taking ownership and playing second fiddle at appropriate times. Read the competencies of your team mates and play an effective team player.

4. What do you want out of the game...
This is the interesting perspective... Not all persons who come to the TT board come with the intention to win the games. After all this is not a tournement/trophy to fight for everyday. The main purpose for such TT gaming sessions is relaxation from stressful work and for sheer fun. What gives fun is different for different people... For me, winning games is fun and occasionally taking miraculous shots gives enjoyment. But for others it may be... hitting amazing shots...or may be defending a lightning smash... attacking with Muttiah spins etc etc. And at the end of the day, there is no point in playing defensive and winning 10 games when hitting smashes alone will give you the fun. Play what keeps you thrilled !
Similarly employees expectation out of work differs with person to person. Some want huge challenges and enjoy fighting with them day in and day out. For a few, a cake walk work gives no pain. Let me not get into the work-life balance issues, but work-life balance is a No-worry factor when you love your work. In that case work and life are no separate things for you. The
work is part of your life. I'm here. I have nothing to balance as work and life are no two things for me. Understanding what you want out of your career depends on your view of the work and how you take on it.

5. The game reflects your attitude :)
A few games of TT with a person and I can, to a decent extent, judge the attitude of the person in general. A person who takes a lot of risks in the shots in TT will be his code, risky ! :)... A defensive person who just returns your placements will be defensive in catching a lot of exceptions in his code... if u hear a person screaming "Mann, the ball is broken, the rubber is dead, the lighting is not enough" in the TT table, you are most likely to hear"Those onsite teams were lazy, the system was not responding, the support was not enough" in your team meetings from him.

hmmm.. I donno whether I made sense in my writing above. But wanted to give shape to my thoughts as I'm sitting on a
medical leave at home due to a jaw breaking accident while I was playing this same game of Table Tennis :)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Air Deccan... Complicate n fly !

I have flown Air Deccan quite a number of times and have actually found it decent enough a carrier for domestic travels. It was only recently I had to face the real face of this irresponsible and customer-unfriendly airlines.
We, as a group of 5 ppl, booked our flight from Coimbatore to Hyderabad. Due to change in plans, we had to cancel 4 of the passengers on that ticket and reschedule mine to a later date. I did the rescheduling and had the printed leaf of the same. The other guys cancelled their tickets from the Air Deccan travel desk at Bangalore airport. Here starts the drama. It was very specifically made clear by my friend that the cancellation should not affect the rescheduled passenger (that is me). Even the staff on duty there affirmed that it will not be affected. But they did the perfect wrong thing - cancelled the entire PNR. I was roaming about in deep interior Tamil Nadu and was unaware of all this. The sad part of the story was even my friend who was cancelling the ticket bothered least to reconfirm the cancellation. Blame not them, they were in a hurry for their flight and were happy with the word of the executive in keeping my ticket intact.
For me, this was a costly affair. Not just in terms of the money... time... strain... mental agony... I was jus using Coimbatore as a transit location when returning from Tirunelveli to Hyderabad. Went all the way to airport with a ticket - not knowing that its actually cancelled a week ago - and was sent away from the check-in counter.
The incredible pain was the way Air Deccan people at Coimbatore handled this. I clearly explained them that the tkt was cancelled by mistake by the Air Deccan office at B'lore. He was least bothered about my shouting... in fact I realized that there were already a bunch of dissatisfied and fiery customers yelling at them for different problems.
To my bad luck (it later turned out to be a nice time, is a different story) the flight was presumably running full which denied me the chance to buy a new tkt for the same day. So had to finally book the next day flight and went to my relatives place there.
After all this the flight next day was my worst flight ever till date. They happily rescheduled the flight from 12 noon to 6:30 PM and typical of State-run buses, introduced a new stop in Cochin, delayed the take off from there to attract passengers and finally landed at 9:30 PM at hyd. uffffhhhh.
This made me realize that flying with Air Deccan, the proclaimed *low* cost airline of the recent times, infact is the costliest affair, costing you in all kinds. So here I go, I join the elite club of "will-not-fly-air-deccan-again".